Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

January 29, 2013

Part I of my Super Saturday

Filed under: Cemeteries,Taphophilia,Travel — Janice @ 8:53 am

A few months ago an old friend sent a message saying that she knew I loved old cemeteries and she did, too. She suggested I come to San Antonio and tour a beautiful cemetery at a convent with her and maybe some others she knew about. I thought that was a great idea, but I am not much of a “doer.” But, though I am calendar-challenged, I put a recurring not on my Google calendar to keep reminding me about this offer because I wanted to take her up on it. When Mark gave me the dates of his trip to California I thought that that might be the perfect weekend to plan to go so San Antonio. It all worked out perfectly with Cathy, too, and she was free to show me around.

I had not seen Cathy in about 30 years. We were in college at the same time, but she was already a professional in Amarillo radio by the time I was just getting started so we weren’t close friends. We knew the same people and had lots in common and knew one another, but we didn’t keep in touch after college except that I would see her doing TV news and I assume she heard me on the radio. She moved away and I did, too. We did both end up in Austin at one time and we emailed back and forth and said we should get together, but that didn’t happen. One super nice thing about Facebook is that you can reconnect with people that maybe you didn’t know well and learn more about them. She saw my interest in cemeteries and here we are.

Her beautiful home was my first stop, but I haven’t “developed” the pictures of it yet (I like using archaic terms). It is a SWEET bungalow in a historic district in the western parts of HUGE San Antonio. I have never driven in San Antonio where I didn’t get lost or off on the wrong freeway. Yes, I did briefly on this trip, too, as I came home, but fortunately there was a second exit that did the same thing as the exit I missed.

Let’s jump right on to the cemetery. This is just Part 1 because I counted something like 29 cemeteries that we saw on Saturday. Hard to fathom that you can go to that many cemeteries in one day and in Part II I will explain how that it possible. But first we went to the University of the Incarnate Word.  It is a beautiful university with a long history. Cathy wanted to show me the chapel there, but it was locked. She says it is beautiful. Cathy is Catholic so she would have been able to stop me from doing something totally stupid in the cathedral, which I am likely to do. I told her how I am the ultimate cafeteria Catholic, as my friend Beth calls me, and my attendance on St. Blaise Day, which is coming up this weekend, by the way.

The University was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, an order begun by a Bishop from France that came to Texas and saw the need just after the Civil War and brought 3 nuns over to begin a hospital in Galveston. They have done some amazing things.

Their cemetery was small, spare, and very peaceful. I posted a picture yesterday. Here are some more:

This is the entrance to the cemetery with roses and a guardian angel and a child. The nuns ran an orphanage that had a terrible fire in the 1910s. Cathy knew so many stories about the nuns, the convent, the orphanage, and all of San Antonio. She was a great tour guide.

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Like a military cemetery, the graves were (mostly) alike and lined up so neatly. On all of these older graves, there were death dates, but no birth dates. On flat gravestones that were newer (and I didn’t take pictures), they did have both birth and death.

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This is the grave of one of the first 3 nuns that came to start this order in Texas. I wonder how old she was when she came? Can you imagine the sacrifices she had already made in her life to become a nun and then to leave the relative modern life of France in the 1860s to come to war-torn Texas with only 2 other nuns to begin hospitals and schools? Amazing. You see she did die in France, so she did get to return at some point, but then her body was returned here.

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Looking toward the rear of the cemetery and a statue of the Jesus with the “flaming heart” that you see in Mexican culture so often. Another picture of that beautiful oak tree coming up. To the left of the tree is an altar.

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This is the altar up close. I really would not have noticed it and thought of it as an altar if Cathy hadn’t pointed that out to me. I have not been to Catholic cemeteries enough or haven’t been observant enough to realize that is what they are there for. She said the tradition of the altar at the cemetery had been going away, but is coming back again.

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And the final picture, this beautiful oak tree, which really was the most outstanding focal point of the cemetery. It was easy to imagine the founders of the cemetery choosing this spot because of the spreading arms of the oak, because I am sure they were not much smaller when the cemetery was begun over 100 years ago.  Imagine it without the fence, the parking lot, the cars, and envision this area away from the city center and a peaceful convent cloistered from the city and the world, as the nuns and a priest buried the first sister of their order.

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That was just stop ONE of our day and we hadn’t even had lunch yet. I could have been satisfied with just this one beautiful cemetery, but there was a lot more to come. And we’ll get to that eventually in Part II.

2 Comments »

  1. Wow! Very pretty. The Incarnate Word sisters also started my alma mater, St. Mary’s. (Can a grade school be an alma mater?)

    Comment by Beth — January 29, 2013 @ 11:29 am

  2. Breathtaking. I want to go visit these places too! How great to have Cathy’s vast knowledge to add to the trip. Wow. You’re getting me hooked on cemeteries, you know!

    Comment by Mackie — January 29, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

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